Rebs beat Florida to head to finals

BATON ROUGE, La. – The No. 2 seeded Ole Miss men's tennis team is back in the SEC Championship final for the second year in a row and the third time in four years, as they defeated third-seeded Florida 4-2 here Saturday to advance. They will face the winner of the Georgia/LSU match Sunday at Noon, for the title.

The Rebels (22-3) and Gators (13-7) were locked in a close battle, with Ole Miss needing only one point to win. On court three, Florida led 2-1 in the third set when cheers erupted down on court six, as Rebel junior Jakob Klaeson had just finished winning three straight points in the second-set tiebreak against Gator Daniel Cash to clinch the victory.

Klaeson, who also won the first set in a tiebreaker held a 6-5 lead and was serving. He lost two straight points to find himself down 6-7 before winning the final three points to give the Rebels their sixth win over the Gators in the last seven meetings. It also marked the second consecutive year for Ole Miss to knock Florida out of the tournament in the semifinals.

"You realize that everyone is going to come down and watch you and scream," Klaeson said. It's a lot of fun. Today I wanted to play so much better, because I have it in me. I knew I could do it."

"When it gets to this time of year, it comes down to one or two points that separate the teams that advance, and we were fortunate to get that," head coach Billy Chadwick said. "At the same time, I really credit the guys with fighting hard to position ourselves to win and then finding a way to do it. Florida played extremely well. For us to win and advance we had to outfight a very tough Florida team. It was a total team effort where we played outstanding in doubles. We're looking forward to tomorrow."

Ole Miss, ranked No. 8 in the nation, will be making its fourth SEC Championship final appearance. They won the tournament in 1997, defeating Georgia 4-2, and then lost to Georgia (4-3) in 2004 and last year (4-2).

For the second day in a row, the Rebels took the doubles point to go up 1-0. The Rebels dominated 8-3 at No. 2 and then got an 8-4 win at No. 3. Ole Miss is now 97-4 when they win the doubles point dating back to the 2002 season.

Following doubles, Rebel senior Eric Claesson was pulled from the singles lineup, thus everyone moved up a spot.

Freshman Kalle Norberg gave Ole Miss a 2-0 advantage when he downed UF's Billy Mulligan 6-4, 6-0 on court four. With the win, Norberg improved to 20-1 in dual matches.

In their first meeting this season, the Rebels clinched the win at No. 2 singles, where Ole Miss' Matthias Wellermann faced Florida's Greg Ouellette. Ouellette was overruled for the fifth time in the match during the second set, which automatically results in a default. The two faced off again Saturday, but this time Ouellette came out on the winning side, defeating Wellermann, 6-3, 6-4 to put his team on the board.

In the feature match, Erling Tveit, ranked No. 13, gave the nation's No. 3 player and the SEC Freshman of the Year, Jesse Levine, all he wanted before succumbing 7-5, 6-4, as Florida evened the overall score.

Jonas Berg came up big for the Rebels yet again this season, holding off Gator Jordan Dolberg in three sets at No. 5 singles to put Ole Miss back on top 3-2, setting up the final outcome. Berg dominated the first set 6-2, but Dolberg rallied to win the second 6-3. In the decisive set, Berg got the first break and held for 6-4 to remain undefeated in dual matches at 19-0.

"I got off to a great start, but then I lost momentum after a really awful game," Berg said. "I found a way to get the final set. It's always good to get tight matches and pull through even when you aren't playing the way you want to play."

"The thing that's fortunate is we have eight good players, so at a given time if we need to rest someone like we needed to do with Eric today, we have that luxury," Chadwick added. When it's on the line there are a lot of nerves involved. You have a tendency to want to second guess yourself. Nothing makes a player grow more than in the case of Jakob and Jonas today. They fought through the nerves and found a way to win. That develops confidence."

DOUBLES

#1 Tveit/Claesson (OM) vs. Levine/Ouellette (UF) 7-7, sus.

#2 Berg/Wellermann (OM) def. Dolberg/Mulligan (UF) 8-3

#3 Poole/Klaeson (OM) def. Briceno/Barton (UF) 8-4

SINGLES

#1 Jesse Levine (UF) def. Erling Tveit (OM) 7-5, 6-4

#2 Greg Ouellette (UF) def. Matthias Wellermann (OM) 6-3, 6-4

#3 Robbye Poole (OM) vs. Nestor Briceno (UF) 6-7, 6-3, 1-2, sus.

#4 Kalle Norberg (OM) def. Billy Mulligan (UF) 6-4, 6-0

#5 Jonas Berg (OM) def. Jordan Dolberg (UF) 6-2, 3-6, 6-4

#6 Jakob Klaeson (OM) def. Daniel Cash (UF) 7-6, 7-6(7)

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